Sick Sinus Syndrome | Symptoms and Treatment | MedStar Health

Expert care to correct fluctuations in the speed of your heartbeat

The heart’s sinus node produces electrical signals that control the speed of heartbeats. If you have sick sinus syndrome, your sinus node produces abnormal electrical signals that can cause heartbeats that are too fast or slow, or beats that have long pauses between them. The doctors in our Cardiac Electrophysiology Program are internationally recognized for advances in managing heart rhythm disorders.

Sick sinus syndrome can be caused by certain medications used to treat heart disease or high blood pressure. Scar tissue from previous heart surgeries can also affect the sinus node, as can age-related damage to the heart.

What are the symptoms of sick sinus syndrome?

Sick sinus syndrome symptoms can include:

You may not notice any symptoms, or they may come and go. Symptoms often are the result of reduced blood flow to brain.

In some cases, the abnormal heartbeats caused by sick sinus syndrome can lead to heart failure or a condition called tachy-brady syndrome.


Your doctor will order an electrocardiogram to find evidence of an abnormal heart rhythm. You may need additional types of heart rhythm monitoring if a standard electrocardiogram isn’t enough to detect your heart’s rhythm problem.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Electrophysiology Testing

Electrophysiology testing is used to evaluate the cause and location of an abnormal heartbeat (known as an arrhythmia).

Event Monitors

An event monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram takes place over a few minutes, an event monitor measures heart rhythms over a much longer time.


A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.

Holter Monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram records over a few minutes, a Holter monitor records over the course of a day or two.

Loop Recorder

A loop recorder is a device that’s implanted underneath the skin of your chest to record your heart rhythm for up to three years.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

Tilt Table Test

Tilt table testing allows your doctor to determine the cause of explained fainting while monitoring changes in your blood pressure and heart rate while tilted at different angles.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

Transesophageal echocardiogram allows your doctor to take very detailed images of your heart structure from a probe in your esophagus.


You may only need regular checkups if your symptoms aren’t severe. If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend one or more possible treatment options.

Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

Atrial fibrillation ablation uses extreme heat or cold to destroy tissue causing faulty electrical signals in the heart.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a device implanted below your collarbone that monitors your heart’s rhythm. When it detects an abnormal rhythm, it delivers an electrical impulse or shock to the heart to correct it.


A pacemaker is a device that helps control various types of heart rhythm disorders.

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